On Monday, December 7, SAS EVP and CMO Jim Davis resigned to take “a leadership role” at Informatica. Davis was effectively the second in command at SAS since 2001, and widely seen as next in line of succession when owner and CEO Jim Goodnight decides to sell, retire or exit in some other fashion.
“Highly marketable people get job opportunities presented to them all the time,” said SAS spokeswoman Shannon Heath in a statement for The News & Observer. “This was obviously an opportunity that he felt strongly about and we wish him the best in that and appreciate all of his contributions.
A “crushing blow?” There’s only one person at SAS whose departure will blow the place up. I remember hearing Jim Goodnight speak about ten years ago; he spoke for fifteen minutes, without notes, about the business. The audience loved it. Jim Davis was next on the agenda; he delivered about a hundred professionally produced Powerpoint slides, complete with animated pyramids and such. For more than an hour he went on and on, talking nonsense, while the back half of the auditorium headed for the exits.
In an interview with Smith, Davis disclosed that he will be the EVP and CMO of Informatica. According to Smith, Davis says that even though he will have the same title at Informatica, which is a third the size of SAS, he “does not see it as a lateral move.” He also said that he would not have gone to work for a direct competitor of SAS, and he “did not see Informatica and SAS as direct competitors” even though SAS earns a quarter of its revenue from data quality and ETL software.
Perhaps we should call Davis “Baghdad Jim.”
Personally, I suspect that Davis was toast from the day about a year ago when Goodnight had to walk back a prediction of double-digit sales growth in 2014. (Revenue actually grew 2%).
As a rule, CMOs do not walk or get axed when the topline looks good. It’s possible that Davis’ departure is just what SAS says it is, a personal decision. It’s also possible that SAS will post ugly numbers for 2015. We should know by the end of the month.